SERMON TITLE: 1 Kings: The Temple of God
TEXT: 1 Kings 8:1-11 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
We’re continuing our Finding Jesus series this weekend. This is a series where I introduce you to a book of the Bible that you may or may not be familiar with. I’ll give you an overview of the book — followed by a closer look at a particular section of it. And then — and this is what I hope will be most helpful — each week I show you how to find Jesus. Because the whole Bible is ultimately pointing us to him.
And in this iteration of our Finding Jesus series — we’re looking at the books in the Old Testament referred to as the history section. What these books have in common is that they cover historical events in the life of God’s people. Some of the books cover hundreds of years while others cover a brief period of time — but — together — they tell the history of God’s people. And — today — we’ll be looking at the book of First Kings. So — if you have your Bible — please turn with me to First Kings chapter eight.
In previous weeks we’ve looked at Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and First and Second Samuel and — in the coming weeks — we’ll look at 2nd Kings as well as First and Second Chronicles.
BACKGROUND OF FIRST KINGS
Now — let’s take some time to get our bearings in the book of First Kings — and I hope you’ll see that this is a book you’ll want to go read for yourself.
First, do we know who wrote First Kings? We do not. There’s a Jewish tradition which states that the prophet Jeremiah is the author due to the book of Jeremiah quoting a lot from the material we find in the books of kings — but we’re just not certain if he’s the author or not. And — like the books of Samuel — First and Second Kings were originally one book written on two scrolls — leading to us having a First and a Second Kings in our Bibles because there was a first and second scroll.
Do we know when the book was written? Most likely the books were written some time in the sixth century BC or later. Here’s one example — from Second Kings — that leads us to this conclusion.
2 Kings 25:27–30 (NLT)
27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah, Evil-merodach ascended to the Babylonian throne. He was kind to Jehoiachin and released him from prison on April 2 of that year. 28 He spoke kindly to Jehoiachin and gave him a higher place than all the other exiled kings in Babylon. 29 He supplied Jehoiachin with new clothes to replace his prison garb and allowed him to dine in the king’s presence for the rest of his life. 30 So the king gave him a regular food allowance as long as he lived.
Scholars have dated King Jehoiachin’s release from prison to be the year 561 BC and — for this to be recorded would mean that the original scrolls were written down after these events had taken place.
What about the time period covered in the books? The content of First and Second Kings covers the time period roughly between 970 to 560 BC. Now something I’ve mentioned throughout this series is how the historical books pick up where the books of Moses end. God’s people — after being rescued out of Egypt — are led by Moses to the border of the Promised Land — but due to a lack of trust in God — instead of entering into the Promised Land — the people wander in the wilderness for forty years. Moses — along with Joshua and Caleb — arrive again at the border of the Promised Land — this time with the next generation of Israelites. But Moses’ time on earth had come to an end and God appoints Joshua to be the leader of the Israelites.
Under Joshua’s leadership, the Israelites enter and conquer the Promised Land — which we looked at in the book named after Joshua a few weeks ago. After Joshua — there was a brief period when the people faithfully served and worshiped the One true God. But then we came to the book of Judges which contains the history of the people turning their backs on God. Yet God — in demonstration of his love and faithfulness to his people — raised up judges who act as saviors for his people — delivering them from the consequences of their rebellion — these judges turn the people back to God again and again.
And — it’s during the time of the judges — when the story of Ruth takes place. A love story of an outsider welcomed into the family of God. And the book of Ruth ends by telling us that the son born to her — would have a descendant who would be king of God’s people. And the books of First and Second Samuel record the transition between the time of the judges to the time of the monarchy.
Samuel is a prophet called by God to anoint the first king of Israel — his name is Saul. Things don’t go well for Saul — he’s a proud man who refuses to repent of his rebellion and sin — resulting in God removing his anointing from Saul. God then tells Samuel to go to the house of Jesse to anoint Israel’s next king — whose name is David. And the books of Samuel record the lives of the first two kings of Israel — which leads us to our book — First Kings.
OVERVIEW OF FIRST KINGS
First Kings begins by covering the end of David’s life and reign as king. If you remember from last week — God established a covenant with David — a promise made by God that he would establish an eternal throne for one of David’s descendants. Well — the two books of the kings record the long history of the kings that come after David — none who live up to God’s promise to David. And — not only do they not live up to the promise — because of their collective leadership — the nations of Israel and Judah experience destruction and defeat. One Bible scholar suggests that the theme of the two books of kings could be phrased “the demise of the kingdom through disobedience.” So know that that’s what you read about in the books of the kings — the demise of the kingdom through disobedience.
After David’s death, First Kings records the history of Solomon’s reign as king. Solomon is David’s son and his mother is Bathsheba. Yes — God uses the worst moment in David’s life for good. In fact — this is a theme we find throughout the Bible and it highlights both the providence and the sovereignty of God. The best way to think of God’s providence is to remember that God is for us and — since he is for us — he’s working out everything for our eternal good. So God’s providence is just that — his working out all things — often behind the scenes things — for our eternal good.
Sovereignty means that God is in charge — that he’s in control. His sovereignty is why we know he is able to work out all things for our eternal good. For example, Joseph’s brothers meant to cause him harm — by selling him into slavery — but God meant it for good — for the salvation of many (see Genesis 50:20). Or — as an example relevant to our book — though David was acting on evil, sinful inclinations in his murderous and adulterous affair with Bathsheba — even these acts were not outside of the providence and sovereignty of God.
Now — I don’t know what you’ve got going on in your life right now — but dear Christian — and maybe this may persuade you to consider following Jesus if you’re not currently — but there’s great hope in knowing that God is for you. There’s great hope in knowing that he’s working out all things for your eternal good. There’s great hope in knowing that he has the power to work out all things for your good. And — what hope there is in knowing that — since God is for you — nothing can stand against your eternal destiny.
Back to First Kings. The passage we’re going to focus on comes from the period of Solomon’s reign as king — which is recorded in the first eleven chapters of the book. A highlight from these chapters is when God tells Solomon to ask him for anything.
1 Kings 3:5 (NLT)
5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
What an opportunity, right? If God asked you, “What do you want? Ask and I’ll give it to you!” — what would you say? Here’s what Solomon said.
1 Kings 3:9 (NLT)
9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
He could’ve asked for anything — riches, fame, you name it — but Solomon asks for wisdom so he’ll be a better king for the people of God.
1 Kings 3:10–15 (NLT)
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies —12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for — riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet.
And Solomon’s wisdom is immediately put to the test. I won’t spoil it for you — just know that the situation involves two mothers — a baby that’s alive — and a baby who’s died. There’s a dispute over whose baby is dead and whose is alive. And Solomon’s solution involves him asking for a sword. Can you believe that there are people who think the Bible is boring? He asks for a sword!
There’s much more to Solomon’s life — but we need to move on to what happens in the rest of the book. Just know that he’s a deeply flawed man — even with the gift of great wisdom that God had given to him.
Chapters twelve through sixteen record the splitting of the nation of Israel. If you’ve ever wondered why you sometimes hear the “nation of Israel” and other times hear the “nations of Israel and Judah” — well it’s because of what happens in these chapters. The nation of Israel lasts for three kings before a national split takes place over the throne.
After Solomon’s death — his son — Rehoboam makes a decision that leads to the splitting of the kingdom. Instead of listening to the older, wiser men who counseled his father — Rehoboam takes the advice of his youthful friends who he grew up with. Now — the point here — isn’t a lesson about youthfulness versus old age — this is history, after all — so this is simply telling us what Rehoboam did and what happened as a result. His youthful friends happened to give him terrible advice — so terrible — that the nation splits. And this is why the two books of kings are so hard to follow.
From this point on — when you read the two books — you’ll jump back and forth between the nation of Israel and the nation of Judah depending on which king’s story is being told. And — of course — because this is history — you may have a bunch of kings — ruling in one nation — who all reign during the time of one king of the other nation who happened to have a very long tenure. So back and forth we jump between the two nations — making it easy to get lost and not know where or when you are.
As a side note — this is why a chronological Bible reading plan can be really helpful. Because — get this — and to add more complications to the whole “what’s going on right now” confusion — the books of the prophets — which we’ve already covered in our Finding Jesus series — overlap with what’s happening in First and Second Kings. So not only do you have the flip flopping between the two nations — but you’ve also got other writings in the Bible that are happening at the same historical time period as our books.
If you’re looking for a good resource to help make sense of all of this — I’ve found the New Living Translation Chronological Audio Bible to be really helpful. I listen to it every year as a way to keep the timeline of the Bible somewhat straight in my mind — because it’s hard to keep it all together — at least for me.
From chapter seventeen on — you’ll read about the various kings of Israel and Judah. The split begins with Rehoboam — in Judah — and Jeroboam — in Israel. Judah will keep Jerusalem as its capital and eventually Samaria will become the capital of Israel. The books then record the history of about twenty kings each for both Israel and Judah. And — the author of the books — essentially grades each king on how well they: 1) Led the people to worship God alone, 2) Got rid of idolatry, and 3) Were faithful to God’s covenant with his people. And — the author of the books — after passing out the report cards to the kings — fails all of Israel’s kings and only eight of Judah’s kings receive a passing grade.
So what does all of that tell us? So much for an earthly king being an upgrade from the judges we read about weeks ago. I say this because that’s what we learn: no earthly king is able to deal with the real problem — the sinful hearts and rebellion of the people.
Though there’s much more that could be said about the two books — we’ll cover the rest next week when we look at Second Kings — taking a closer look at some prophets who play an important role in this time period.
So — with that as our overview — let’s turn to the passage that we’re going to take a closer look at and discover one way to find Jesus in our book. We’re in First Kings chapter eight — beginning in verse one.
1 Kings 8:1–11 (ESV)
1 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. 2 And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the feast in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month. 3 And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. 4 And they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. 5 And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. 6 Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the Most Holy Place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 7 For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim overshadowed the ark and its poles. 8 And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the Holy Place before the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside. And they are there to this day. 9 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.
THE TEMPLE OF GOD
What a moment for the people of God, right? I mean — what a worshipful moment. They’ve made a permanent residence for the presence of God. Yet Solomon knows that there’s no containing the One true God. We know this because of the words he prays as he dedicates the Temple.
1 Kings 8:27–30 (NLT)
27 “But will God really live on earth? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! 28 Nevertheless, listen to my prayer and my plea, O Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is making to you today. 29 May you watch over this Temple night and day, this place where you have said, ‘My name will be there.’ May you always hear the prayers I make toward this place. 30 May you hear the humble and earnest requests from me and your people Israel when we pray toward this place. Yes, hear us from heaven where you live, and when you hear, forgive.
Solomon knows that this temple cannot contain God — creation can’t even contain God! Yet the temple can serve as a visible symbol of God’s presence, which is what the ark has done up to this point in history. That’s why the ark is mentioned eight times in our verses — it’s represented the presence of God since the time of Moses. And now God's presence is symbolically represented by the temple that Solomon has built. And I love the visual we’re given at the end of our verses. Once the priests had placed the ark in the temple — a cloud filled the house of the Lord — a cloud so visible that the priests couldn’t continue with their work. And the cloud is the visible presence of the glory of God.
This all echoes back to the time of Moses. When he led the people in the wilderness — at night God’s glory was seen as a fire to guide them but — by day — God’s glory was seen in the form of a cloud. The presence and glory of God was their guide and — now — the temple is filled with the presence and glory of God. Again — think of what a moment this was for the people of God.
FINDING JESUS THE TRUE TEMPLE
Now let’s find Jesus in all of this. Centuries later, the temple that Solomon had built was destroyed. Due to the rebellion of God’s people — they’re conquered by the Babylonians who will destroy the temple. After their Babylonian exile was over, the Jews returned to their homeland but never quite got the temple rebuilt to its original glory — that is — until the time of Jesus — but even then the temple didn’t live up to the memory of what Solomon had built. But — even more than the aesthetics of the temple — the hearts of the people were just as far from God as ever in their history. Thus — one day — while in Jerusalem — this occurred in the life of Jesus.
John 2:13–22 (NLT)
13 It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went to Jerusalem. 14 In the Temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; he also saw dealers at tables exchanging foreign money. 15 Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the Temple. He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables. 16 Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, “Get these things out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” 17 Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” 18 But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” 19 “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” 21 But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.
The people had turned the temple into a marketplace — it was no longer the house of the Lord dedicated to the worship of God. And this — well — this made Jesus angry. You see, his passion for his Father’s house so consumed him that it being desecrated angered him. What about you?
Now — we’re finding Jesus here — but I don’t want us to miss an easy application for us. Churches are not the temple — but local churches are called “houses of worship” for a reason. For this is to be a place where God’s people gather to worship him. And — yes — I know that worship isn’t just for Sunday mornings — but certainly worship includes gathering with God’s people to worship him. So — if I may ask — how passionate are you for God to be worshiped in his house by his people? How passionate and excited are you to come and worship God here at Gateway? Are you nonchalant about it? Are you passionless when you’re here? I’m not saying you’ve got to raise your hands when we sing but — and I’m just speaking to followers of Jesus right now — do you even sing? Is God worthy of your worship including your singing? Is he worthy of your attention when his Word is opened and proclaimed — or when someone offers up prayers on our behalf? Or is this some sort of marketplace of Christian goods and services where you just pick the parts you want to participate in and think doing so doesn’t — I don’t know — maybe make Jesus angry?
Jesus was holy and righteously passionate about the worship of his Father — so much so — that he prophetically spoke of the lengths to which he’d go to ensure his Father would be worshiped by you and me today. What am I talking about? Jesus’ words, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The onlookers couldn’t believe what they’d just heard. “Three days? Really, Jesus, three days is all it’ll take you to rebuild something that’s taken nearly fifty years to rebuild?” But Jesus wasn’t talking about the physical temple — he was talking about himself — the true and better temple. Jesus is what Solomon’s temple was always pointing to. And you know this. This is why you no longer look in the direction of where the temple was located when you pray — instead you look to Jesus — the true temple of God.
“Well, Josh, I think you may be taking Jesus’ words a bit too far. Surely he didn’t mean that the physical temple was going to no longer be important.” I guess that depends on where your eyes are fixed — so let me fix all of our eyes on eternity.
In the book of Revelation, the apostle John is given a vision of the New Heavens and New Earth. And — more specifically — in Revelation chapter twenty-one — he’s given a vision of the New Jerusalem. So the city that Solomon has built the temple in will be renewed in eternity. And — after seeing the gates and the foundation stones and measuring the width, and length, and height of the New Jerusalem — John says this.
Revelation 21:22 (NLT)
22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
In the New Jerusalem of Heaven — there will be no physical temple. Why not? Because the Lamb — Jesus Christ — is the eternal temple. Jesus is the Temple that the temple Solomon built was always meant to point us to — the temple was pointing us to Jesus.
Now — as if this isn’t enough to increase our desire to come to the house of the Lord with heart’s ready for passionate worship of our God — there’s one last truth I want to bring to your attention — and I’m sure this will be a reminder for many.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as a stone — like a stone used when building a structure. For example, the apostle Peter writes...
1 Peter 2:4–5 (NLT)
4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. 5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.
Did you notice how Peter not only refers to Jesus as a stone, but he refers to us — Christians — as stones that are being built into a spiritual temple? How interesting — we’re being made into a temple. And this isn’t just Peter’s idea, the apostle Paul writes...
Ephesians 2:19–22 (NLT)
19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. 22 Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
Jesus is the cornerstone — the most important stone of the temple — the stone by which all the other stones are set. And amazingly — we — his people — are the other stones God is using to build his temple — his place of worship — the place where he lives and is present by his Spirit.
And — now — the temple takes on an even sweeter meaning because we — together — are God’s temple — the place where God lives by his Spirit. And we’re stones of the temple because we’ve looked to the cornerstone — Jesus Christ — in faith. Trusting in him who did die — but three days later rose from the grave — demonstrating that his passion for the house of the Lord — his zeal for the place where God dwells to be holy — is now to be the passion and zeal we have as his people — living stones of a spiritual temple where God’s presence dwells.
If you believe in Jesus — you are part of the house of the Lord — a stone in the holy place of worship where God dwells. But — you’re only a part of the house — none of us are the entire house individually — showing us why we should be passionate for these times when we all gather together to worship in the house of the Lord. For this is a sacred and spiritual act that we do — these gatherings are when the spiritual temple of God comes together — giving us a glimpse what eternity in Heaven will be like. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, fill this place with your presence and glory. Fill us — your people — with your presence. Give us a holy, passionate, zeal for your house — for the worship of you is the reason why we exist — thus this should be where our passion is most displayed.
Holy Spirit, you are God and you are present and living in each of us who believe in Jesus. You turn our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh so that we become living stones in your holy temple. Increase our passion and love and joy in Jesus so that we gather together — as a people — who worship in Spirit and in truth.
And — Jesus — our great cornerstone — the true and eternal temple — though you were dead — three days later you rose from the grave. And for this reason — we can say with confidence — there truly is none like you. Not in heaven — not here on earth. And — because there is none like you — you are greatly to be praised. May the words spoken and sung from our mouths, the thoughts of our minds, the actions of our hands, and the passions of our hearts be pleasing in your sight. And we pray all of this in your name. Amen.
May you — having believed in Jesus Christ — go knowing that you are joined to him as part of his holy temple. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.